Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday the Walking Poet

Good afternoon, girls! It’s Monday!

One of my vices is beginning to rear its head – I have caught myself procrastinating on writing this blog post. I put together a card that doesn’t need to be done until tomorrow night, I’ve checked the mailbox half a dozen times, and I made an only slightly necessary trip to campus. I have the sinking feeling it will not be much longer before I find myself posting closer and closer to midnight until the fateful day arrives when I sign on too late and therefore face punishment.

But that shall not be today! Reasonless procrastination, I shall defeat you! You have no place in this collaborative blog project. Begone!

There. Now that the dastardly villain has been banished, I shall proceed with the answering of last week’s questions.

What form would my Patronus take? If you’ll recall, last week I mentioned Maggie and Heidi. If you add the name Katie to the mix, you’ll have my three closest friends from the beginning of college. We met and bonded over a mutual love of Harry Potter, and actually did quite a bit of research into this question when Katie wanted to draw portraits of the four of us. The animal that was settled on for me was a fox, as foxes represent insight, cleverness, cunningness and resourcefulness. I can see it, but I also like the symbolism of the owl. I also just like owls in general. So either a fox or an owl.

As for what gets my blood boiling, I could give you the flippant answers – dismissal of the Harry Potter epilogue, poor grammar, dissing Hufflepuffs – but the real answer is brushing off the worth and abilities of children. I’ll save the heart of this for soapbox week, but suffice it to say that I am a huge advocate of young people, particularly in the arts, and the quickest way to get on my bad side is to disrespect or dismiss all that young people have to offer society.

Also: Happy Birthday, Christina! I don’t know when exactly this week it falls, but Happy 22! It’s a decent age. I’ve enjoyed it so far, anyway, and I hope you will, too!

And now for the central of the week: What surprises most people to learn about you?

Again, I could give a variety of answers – the fact that I’m a pastor’s kid, the fact that I write fanfiction, the fact that, yes, Jane Austen really is one of my favorite authors – but the one that always truly shocks people when they learn it is this: I am 22 years old and I do not have my driver’s license.

There are a variety of reasons for this. I got my permit at 15, but I was so busy with other things that it took two years to get all my hours and driving sessions logged. Then I dragged my feet about scheduling the test and waited until I had a week left on my permit, got so freaked and stressed during the test my the attitude of my proctor that I failed maneuverability. My permit expired and I was so upset I never renewed it. That was four and a half years ago. I haven’t been behind the wheel of a car since.

I hate driving. I always have. I find it an incredibly stressful activity, and I just don’t like doing it. I know I have to suck it up and get my license eventually (especially as I’m preparing to move three states away at the end of the summer), but I don’t think driving is ever going to turn into one of those things that I like doing.

I also can’t deny that there’s that stubborn little piece of me that wants to protest the idea that a person without a car is somehow . . . pitiable or handicapped. I’ll admit, when I need to go grocery shopping or take a long trip somewhere, I am slightly hampered by the lack of a car, and I do have to depend on other people for rides. But when it comes to day to day getting around, I am no worse off than people who drive.

I walk pretty much everywhere I have to go. My apartment is about a mile from the places I spend most of my time: campus, downtown, my church. I don’t measure distances in town by miles though – I measure in traveling minutes. And it takes me 15-20 minutes to walk to the places I need to go. And walking, for me, is so much less stressful than driving. Let me list for you the things that, as a walker, I don’t have to worry about: finding a parking place, feeding meters, paying for a campus parking pass, paying for gas, paying for insurance. If I run into unexpected road construction, I cross the street or turn a block early. If I collide with someone, I apologize and keep going, both parties almost certainly unharmed. If ice has formed in the middle of the night, I layer on an extra scarf, step carefully, and I’m good to go.

I also just like walking, and I think that’s what often shocks people more than the lack of a license. But I do. I legitimately like walking. I like the rhythm and the cadence of my steps, and the fact that I can rely on my own two feet to get me places. That I don’t need to be dependent on anyone or anything but a sturdy pair of shoes and an appropriate jacket to get from point A to point B. With clear directions and enough time on my side, I can get anywhere in my town under my own power, and that is appealing to me. As Steven Wright said, “Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.” The world shrinks when you walk it with your own two feet. Before I wrote this blog post, I had no idea how far away I lived from the various places in my town I visit, and I didn’t need to know. It was enough to know I could get there on my own.

Walking is solitary, walking is just about me. It’s a time to take a breath. Robert Sweetgall said, “We live in a fast-paced society. Walking slows us down.” I couldn’t agree more. I wish more people would walk places. I can’t count the number of times I’ve arrived at a destination and heard the slightly disbelieving, “You walked here? Why didn’t you ask for a ride?” Because I don’t need one, more often than not, and I’m a little proud of that.

My thoughts can wander when I walk in a way that they can’t when I drive or even ride with someone else. If I’m behind the wheel, I have to be focused on so many other things, and when I’m riding, I feel bad for letting my thoughts wander. But when I walk, that’s 20 minutes that I have purely to myself. My thoughts are my own, and they sort themselves out better when they have a rhythm to fall into. I’m at my most poetic when walking. I have my best ideas when walking.

There’s also something poetic about the act itself. At least once a week, I find myself walking early in the morning, and there’s something about being outside just before the sun is up, when the streets are bathed in that pre-dawn light and the whole world is hushed – not silent, but hushed, as the rest of the world sleeps on, undisturbed. There’s something about walking when you’re all but alone on the streets. There’s a camaraderie, too, with the other walkers you pass, an acknowledgment of the morning that doesn’t exist as the day wears on. I pass these strangers and I can’t help but fill in their blanks, the reasons they have for walking so early. Some are easy, the dog walkers, the joggers, but the ones I love are the ones like me – the walkers whose purpose isn’t so clear. There’s more to imagine, and in the imagining, I can also see myself through their eyes – this college-aged girl in dress slacks and scuffed snow boots, a stuffed messenger back slung over one shoulder, muttering to herself. Where is she going, and what is she saying, and why is she out so early. Because if there’s one thing I love more than imagining the stories of strangers, it’s imagining the stories that those strangers are imagining about me.

Alexandra, I’ll see you tomorrow.


  1. Totally can't tell you're a writer, Cass. =)

    Funnily enough, I have the same feelings about driving. But then, I've been doing it a bit longer. But I like a good walk as well. (Or run.)

    I'm looking forward to soapbox week. Your soapbox is one I know well. (And share.)

  2. I also love walking places. I'm really glad I live in a town where I can walk to get pretty much anything I need. Walking to the library is a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon. I also get people who ask me if I want a ride home and give me an odd look when I say I'd rather walk.